This Family Believes Their Loved One’s in Dallas with the QAnon Cult. They Want Her to Come Home.
Sean Leek looked forward to living close to his mother again. It was 2018 and he had recently moved back to the area, around the same time she bought a house in Delaware. “At last,” he thought, “we’ll be back in each other’s life.”
Within a few months, he realized that something was wrong with his mother. It wasn’t long before every conversation turned into an argument, including “things about Bill Gates, all these various conspiracies,” he said.
“She’s always been interested in natural remedies, getting aluminum out of deodorants, things like that,” he recalls. “But that led to anti-vaxxing and anti-vaxxing led to QAnon.”
Now she is in Dallas with a fringe group of QAnon believers waiting for John F. Kennedy, the president who was assassinated in 1963, and JFK Jr., who died in 1999, to reappear in Dealey Plaza.
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Mike Rothschild, whose new book The Storm Is Upon Us explores the rise of the QAnon movement, says that this gradual progression from one conspiracy to the next is a common way people end up believing in QAnon.
“Most of the followers were already conspiracy theorists. They didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, it would be fun to join a Gematria cult,'” said Rothschild. (Gematria is a system that assigns numbers to the letters of the English alphabet, often used by QAnoners.)
In 2017, QAnon first appeared in remote corners of the internet on online forums such as 4chan, but it spread quickly. By 2018, the conspiracy theory had gained a foothold among some mainstream right-wing media outlets and politicians.
According to supporters, former President Donald Trump was waging a secret war against a powerful, seedy group of Democrats, Hollywood elites, and the deep state, all of whom ran a global child trafficking ring.
In October 2020, The Guardian released a list of a dozen violent incidents, some of which were fatal, and which are reportedly related to QAnon. Earlier this year, the FBI warned US lawmakers that the movement could become more violent.
But in early November, yet another fringe group of QAnon supporters traveled to Dallas from all over the world on the orders of Michael Protzman, who once ran a Washington-based demolition company and has now built a formidable chase of conspiracy theories on his Telegram channel. Negative48.
For the past few weeks, Protzman and his supporters have claimed that President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence had been dead for years. In a Telegram post, Protzman promoted the conspiracy theory that Biden staged a fatal car accident at a Christmas parade in Wisconsin (apparently, although Biden was dead).
Meanwhile, Sean’s mother is one of the dozen in town who have waited for Protzman’s predictions to come true: If Kennedy and his son reappear at Dealey Plaza, they’ll quickly reinstate the former Trump as president, starting all that the supposedly secret cabal of satan-worshiping pedophile elites that QAnonians believe rule the world.
Hundreds of people like Sean’s mother were convinced of Protzman’s predictions and were forced to follow his instructions to travel to Dallas early last month. They sacrificed their business, property – and in many cases family ties – to make the trip.
Now, more than a month since Kennedy was due to appear at Dealey Plaza, Sean’s mother and dozens of fellow believers are staying in downtown Dallas on Protzman’s orders.
What they are waiting for or what Protzman has planned with his supporters remains unclear. Experts and family members of Protzman’s supporters stressed that the seeds for Protzman’s cult followers were sown in Dallas long before the Telegram star hit the QAnon scene.
“I’ve had this discourse with my sister about this QAnon crap show for four years,” said Bill Leek, a retired Marine Corps colonel and Sean’s uncle. He suspects that his sister is the Delaware woman described in the Observer’s last dispatch about Protzman’s Dallas cult.
Bill is concerned about his sister’s welfare. He’s been worried for a while. In 2017, three years before she uprooted her Delaware life to follow Protzman to Dallas, Bill felt he needed to confront his sister and tell her that her belief system was wrong. He tried to explain that as a Marine Corps veteran and a colonel with a high-level intelligence clearance, he knew that the core messages of the QAnon canon were false.
“We have to get this snake to crawl back under the rock it slipped out of.” – Bill Leek
However, his sister was too far away. She said he was required to use his high-level clearance to confirm those beliefs. “I’m the brother of someone who fell for lies and disinformation that harms not only her but the country,” said Bill. “And it will eventually harm other people and other families if we don’t get it under control.”
The Leek family is not alone. Rothschild saw it happen to others. “They alienate everyone who takes care of them, and then they find themselves where they can often not go back, where no one wants to be around them at any given time,” he said.
Dallas wasn’t a surprising choice. Not only is it the town where Kennedy was shot, but it has also become a QAnon hotbed over the past few months.
In May, John Sabal, known as “QAnon John,” and partner Amy held the For God & County Patriot Roundup downtown. The event was attended by retired General Michael Flynn, former chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West, and US MP from East Texas, Louie Gohmert.
By now the leeks know how complicated their situation is.
Sean Leeks siblings, who chose to remain anonymous to protect his own children, said that while they hope their mother returns to Delaware safely, their relationship is beyond repair. “How can I ever trust something she says again?” He asked.
“Overall, we want you at home,” said Sean, turning directly to his mother. “Basically, your family loves you and when you are ready to come back we are there for you.”
Bill Leek said his focus is not on Protzman himself, but on the threat that disinformation poses in the future. “If it’s not Protzman, in a few years it will be someone else,” he said.
Still, he wants Protzman’s movement in Dallas to be stopped. “We have to get this snake to crawl back under the rock it slipped out of,” he said.